2022 midterms

Trump Had a Good, But Not Perfect, Primary Night

Representative Nancy Mace speaks to media after winning the South Carolina GOP primary election on June 14, 2022. Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

There were some competitive primaries in Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas on June 14, with decent results for former president Donald Trump as he continues his quest to show his dominance of the Republican Party via copious endorsements. Trump had several wins and just one loss, and for the most part both parties chose candidates well-suited for the general election.

There was one definitive result on Tuesday night: In Texas, Republican Mayra Flores won a special election to fill the House seat formerly held by Democrat Filemon Vela, who resigned in March. But Flores’s win in the Rio Grande Valley district might not be that significant in the long run; redistricting will make it hard for her to survive a rematch against Democrat Vicente Gonzalez in November. Still, the symbolic value of a win in a heavily Hispanic South Texas district is important to Republicans.

In South Carolina, Trump got to enjoy the first primary defeat of a Republican House member who voted for his impeachment. That would be South Carolina’s Tom Rice, who lost to state legislator Russell Fry. The winner, who was endorsed by Trump, barely achieved the majority necessary to avoid a runoff, but Rice won only 25 percent of the vote against a large field that attacked him for his impeachment perfidy. Of the nine other House GOP impeachment supporters, four retired, four will face voters in upcoming primaries, and one, David Valadao, is hoping to advance to the general election in California, where primary votes are still being tallied.

Trump endorsee Katie Arrington did not do so well in her effort to purge freshman Representative Nancy Mace, who annoyed the former president with negative comments about his conduct on January 6. Mace aggressively tried to suck up to Trump to make up for her heresy. But she did herself no good in MAGA-land by getting into an extended verbal scrap with Trump favorites Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Mace was backed, however, by the House Republican leadership, the Club for Growth, Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul, and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (an endorsement sure to be overemphasized by those eager for a presidential Haley-Trump collision in 2024). The incumbent also had a solid financial advantage over Arrington. Mace will face a well-financed Democrat in Annie Andrews in November, but hers is a solidly red district; FiveThirtyEight rates it as having a 17-point Republican lean.

In Nevada, which held its first all-mail-ballot primary and experienced sluggish turnout, Trump got some key wins. His Senate endorsee, former state attorney general Adam Laxalt, and gubernatorial endorsee, Clark County sheriff Joe Lombardo, won competitive primaries in a state where Republicans expect major gains in November against Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak. Trump remains undefeated in Senate primaries this year. And perhaps just as importantly, aggressive 2020 election denier Jim Marchant, another Trump endorsee, has won the GOP nomination for secretary of State, the office that supervises elections. Marchant wants to abolish voting by mail and voting machines entirely. Along with Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, Trump now has two stalwart advocates of his 2020 election fables in a position to run things in 2024 if they prevail in November.

Though Trump did not bother to make endorsements in Nevada’s four competitive U.S. House primaries, two Republicans — winner April Becker and likely winner Sam Peters — have denied the legitimacy of President Biden’s win, and a third winner, Mark Robertson, has raised doubt about the 2020 election. Here as elsewhere, Republicans in a very competitive state aren’t bothering to moderate themselves at all.

Only Virginia holds a primary next Tuesday. But a long hot summer of still more divisive primaries lies just over the horizon.

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Trump Had a Good, But Not Perfect, Primary Night